A Game Of Aspirations At The Land Of B-Schools
“I swear to you, I was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead as now that I’ve won it.”
If you’ve questioned your purpose in life multiple times, if you’ve wondered if what you’re doing has any real meaning, if your current struggle will amount to anything at all, when you look back on your b-school days, maybe a decade later, then….
Welcome to b-school. You’re in for one hell of a ride. But, let’s move back in time when winter wasn’t here yet. When you made the vow to take the black, whether it was when you decided to salvage your honour or for glory or because it was an escape, you made the entrance exams and your dream to get into an esteemed b-school a huge part of your life. And that part of your life is memorable because you got where you wanted to, if you leave aside the many self-doubts you’ll face as the term progresses. The idea of being among the elite few to get into one of the most coveted places in a country that thrives on aspirations is a great place to be. But, you’re still the green boy with the smell of summer on you.
And now that term 1 has truly set in, your watch has begun. “A bruise is a lesson… and each lesson makes us better.” That bruise might be a surprise quiz, your project group with very different mind-sets, a subject that makes no sense to you, or competitions where you didn’t make it to the cut, regardless of the effort you put in. It helps that you treat the pain you feel as a bruise and nothing more, even as all of us have different coping mechanisms, because when you play the game of b-school life, either you win or you learn. “So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to stumble and fall, because sometimes the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you’ll get everything you wanted, maybe you’ll get more. Who knows where life takes you, because in the end, the journey is the destination.”
And when you see it like that, your destination includes seemingly insignificant things like dealing with cultural shocks in a manner that makes your peers realise that an MBA program is more than just honing your intellect. It is when you pick up words of a new language and show it off, regardless of whether your instructor taught you with sincerity, or the thrill of navigating your way through a local vendor and giving yourself the credit of creating a brand new language (a mix up of your attempt at a new language and your fluent language), even if sometimes, similar sounding words gets you lost in translation- they make for great late night breaks as you narrate your misadventures. Try, because even the Mother of Dragons needed to learn Dothraki to truly command the Khalasars. Of course, eating non-home food might feel like eating dried horseflesh for a while, that you’ll one day force down your throat to prove a point to someone (remember the eat-the-raw-heart-without-puking challenge?). Mostly that someone is yourself and it’s usually a phase, before you realise that there are better points you can prove and decide to find alternate avenues.
In the words of Tyrion Lannister, “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” Admit to yourself that you’re an engineer, a member of any race that’s stereotyped, a person with a sense of ethics that defies norms, a person with different priorities than most, or a person who’s just plain confused, or with a weakness. Everyone has them, some wear a better mask than others, but the point is that you don’t have to fight with yourself, or who you are. As fire cannot kill a dragon, your past is an integral part of you and it is one of the reasons why you are where you are- your experience which is unique to you, but can accommodate the experience of others, because you’ll soon realise that an MBA is often a crash course on life, more often than business.
You’ll soon realise that you’re learning more outside the classroom than inside. You need to venture beyond the wall to know that there are wildlings or white walkers, and more importantly the difference between the two, which is why it is often not in your own self-interest to be self-centred, because there’s something to learn from everybody. Discounting another’s capacity based on a single inability could turn out to be disastrous-considering the fact that both Samwell Tarley and Petyr Baelish weren’t great at warfare; they both used their abilities in ways that changed the game.
One term later, we call ourselves survivors, because we learn to make peace with the fact that everyone who isn’t you isn’t your enemy. You learn to mock yourself and tough times because it’s alright that you’re not the best at everything, lest you take yourself too seriously. You start to feel a sense of belonging with a set of characters, who take you through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”